Case against man accused in December 2020 traffic fatality near Glenwood Springs headed for preliminary hearing

Prosecutors are being asked to make their case against an El Salvadoran man who was allegedly high on methamphetamine and driving a stolen vehicle when he caused a fatal accident on Colorado Highway 82 near Glenwood Springs late last year.

The driver of the other vehicle, Diane Olson, 57, of Glenwood, died of her injuries the day after the Dec. 30, 2020, crash that also injured a passenger in her car.

Juan Escobar Rosales, 23, was arrested several weeks later after a Colorado State Patrol investigation into the incident and follow-up interviews with the defendant.

He is charged with felony vehicular homicide, aggravated motor vehicle theft, vehicular assault and theft, plus misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence of drugs and driving without a valid license.

Escobar Rosales, an El Salvadoran national according to court records, has remained in the Garfield County Jail on an immigration hold since his Jan. 27 arrest and while his case is being heard.

Juan Escobar Rosales (Colorado State Patrol photo)

Following a court hearing last week, the case was set for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 18, where 9th District Judge John F. Neiley will determine if enough evidence exists to take the case to trial.

According to the initial State Patrol report, the crash occurred around 8 a.m. when the eastbound 2013 Chevrolet Silverado that Escobar Rosales was driving rear-ended Olson’s Buick Regal, which was stopped at the traffic light at the CMC Road turnoff.

Olson, her passenger and Escobar Rosales were all taken to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. Olson was pronounced dead the next day from her injuries. Escobar Rosales and the passenger were treated and released.

When he was first interviewed by the State Patrol, Escobar Rosales indicated that he didn’t see that traffic was stopped because of sun glare. He indicated he was probably going about 60 mph when the crash occurred.

He was released on a summons for careless driving causing injury and no valid driver’s license. He also told the investigating officers that he had borrowed the pickup truck from a friend, according to a State Patrol trooper’s affidavit in the case.

Further investigation, however, revealed that the vehicle was allegedly taken without permission from a Glenwood business a week prior to the incident.

After several failed attempts to contact Escobar Rosales over the ensuing week, area law enforcement was advised to be on the lookout for him. On Jan. 7, U.S. immigration officials in Glenwood Springs said they had located the suspect and detained him for questioning.

Using a translator, when pressed on the matter, Escobar Rosales allegedly admitted he had stolen the truck the night of Dec. 24, 2020, when he found it unlocked and the keys inside.

He also allegedly admitted to selling tools and ladders that accompanied the truck for drug money.

Pressed about his drug use, the defendant also allegedly admitted to having used methamphetamine the morning of the crash.

“I asked (Escobar Rosales) to rate his highness level on a scale from 0-10, with 10 being the highest he has ever been,” the investigating trooper wrote in the affidavit. “He responded he was a 10. …

“I then asked specifically that, on the morning of the crash (if) he was the highest he has ever been in his life on meth, and he stated, ‘Si,'” according to the affidavit.

The investigating trooper later spoke with the owner of the truck and the tools, and determined the tools and ladders alone were valued at more than $2,000. The truck itself was also damaged significantly in the crash.

From a general highway safety standpoint, the CMC intersection has been a local concern for many years. Eastbound traffic rounds a blind curve coming to the traffic signal, and often has to stop abruptly if the light is red and cars are already stopped.

That particular area also experiences sun glare during the morning hours at certain times of the year. Recently, the Garfield County commissioners sent a letter to the Colorado Department of Transportation requesting a caution light be installed on either side of the intersection to warn motorists that a traffic signal is ahead and to be prepared to stop.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or

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